Tag Archives: Otis Stocksdale

“Wilmington is in to the Finish”

10 Dec

When first-year manager Edgar Bear’s 1-9 Wilmington Sailors took the field on May 17, 1902 against the Durham Bulls, George Dudley Proud was, contrary to speculation in the press, assigned to work as umpire.

With the season just 10-games old Proud’s abilities as an umpire had been called into question by Bear, by Greensboro Farmers manager George “King” Kelly, and the press in Greensboro and Wilmington.

The game remained a scoreless tie into the bottom of the seventh inning.  The Wilmington Messenger said:

“Up to that stage it was a clean game, and there were many brilliant plays.  Neither side had scored.  Wilmington took her seventh inning and retired without any chance at the home plate.  Durham came up and (Otis) Stocksdale reached first on a clean hit and stole second. “

The next batter, John Curran, hit a ground ball to first baseman William “Germany” Dommel.  Proud ruled that Dommel did not touch first base and called Curran safe:

“This caused the trouble that resulted in Wilmington’s leaving the field.”

The team left the field and refused to return; Proud awarded the game to Durham by forfeit.  Bear’s role during the incident that led to the forfeit is unclear.   The Wilmington papers said he was present and in the stands, The Durham Herald said he was not at the ballpark when the incident took place.

What happened next is not in dispute.

The Durham Herald said:

“Umpire G. D. Proud, of the State Base Ball League, was assaulted last evening by Mr. E. J. Bear, manager of the Wilmington club.  The assault was the outcome of the kicks made by the Wilmington players in the game yesterday.”

According to the paper, Bear, accompanied by five Wilmington players, went to Durham’s Central Hotel and confronted the umpire.

“(Bear) knocked on the door of Proud’s room and being told to enter; he did so and started off by using insulting language.  This was followed by an attempt to strike the umpire.”

Bear was restrained by two hotel guests and arrested for assault.  Proud was fined $25 and released from jail the following morning.

The Messenger said:

“(Proud’s) conduct in Durham was such to make him many enemies, he told (a reporter) this morning that Durham had tried to ruin him and now he intended to break the state league if possible.  It is learned he telegraphed (North Carolina League) President (Perrin) Busbee this afternoon telling him either Durham or Wilmington had to get out of the league.”

On May 20 The Charlotte Observer published a letter from Bear, which read in part:

“I do most earnestly declare that in my opinion Mr. Proud is totally incompetent as an umpire, and the earlier he is relieved of his job the better it is for the league, and I desire to deny most emphatically that I ever made the statement that Wilmington was going to try to break up the league, or that either Durham or Wilmington had to get out of the league.”

Bear claimed he had not been in contact with the league president and said:

“I am manager of the Wilmington club at a great financial loss, but I have only the good of the league at heart, and intend that Wilmington shall remain a member of the league as long as any other club is in it, whether the Wilmington club wins another game or not.  And further that my best efforts will be given to make the league a success, financially and otherwise.  Wilmington is in to the finish.”

Wilmington was in to the finish—Bear was not.

The New Bern Daily Journal said:

“Manager Edgar Bear rather unceremoniously relinquished the management of the Wilmington baseball club (on May 25) by failing to provide transportation for the team to leave for the game at New Bern.”

Bear had disappeared.  His career as a professional baseball manager was over in less than a month.  He was replaced Harry Mace, who was an umpire in the league and a former professional player who had pitched in three games for the Washington Statesmen in the American Association in 1891.  Wilmington was 10-40 at the beginning of July when the team disbanded and the league was reconstituted with four teams.  Mace rejoined the league’s umpire staff.

Proud did not last much longer.  The day The New Bern Daily Journal reported on Bear’s exit, another article said:

“The New Bern team (the Truckers) arrived here (May 25), after its tempestuous three games at Raleigh…The team felt no discouragement from the loss of those games, which were under the complete control of Umpire Proud, who never gave new Bern a chance to win.”

Proud would resign before the end of May.  The Wilmington Messenger said he was “Honest, but not up to the requirements of the position.”

Proud became an umpire in the Tri-State League a month later.  He was also involved in automobile racing on East Coast, and created road maps.

Bear made the papers one last time.  On September 18 1905, Bear, going by the name of Eddie Merode and working as an acrobat in vaudeville performances in Utah.  The Charlotte Observer said police were called to “an opium joint” in Salt Lake City’s Chinatown were they found him “apparently dying of opium poisoning.”  He died later that day.

Southern Association Pennant Race Scandal

15 Oct

The Memphis Egyptians collapsed in the final three weeks of the 1907 Southern Association race.  After leading the league from the beginning of the season, poor play in the last weeks led to them being overtaken by the Atlanta Crackers.

Vague rumors circulated that Memphis might have thrown the race—but became a full blown scandal on June 2 of 1908 when the rumors became formal allegations.

Former Memphis pitcher Otis Stocksdale, who had been released following the ’07 season and signed with the Mobile Sea Gulls, said Memphis manager Charlie Babb:

“Threw the pennant…to the Atlanta club, and did so deliberately and for business reasons.”

Stocksdale alleged that he had been forced to pitch while he was sick and that players were instructed by the manager “Not to win games.”  Stocksdale charged that Babb, who also played 3rd base, had deliberately misplayed balls during games in Nashville.

If there was any doubt, Stocksdale doubled down on his charges later the same day, telling reporters:

“Every word of this charge is true, and, what is more, I am going to prove the correctness of what I say and by affidavit…I am not going to stop, now that I have started, until this thing is given to the public and Babb gets the punishment he deserves.  The thing was done in order to make a closer race for the flag and get the money in the gates.

“Charley (sic) Babb has no right to be a manager in this league.”

Stocksdale also claimed that two additional players Richard James and Robert “Nick” Carter could, and would corroborate the charges.

Babb denied the allegations.  Atlanta Manager William Smith said, “The league will have to blacklist either Babb or Stocksdale, and I don’t think it will be Babb.”

Atlanta Mayor Walthall Joyner asked Southern Association President William Marmaduke Kavanaugh for an immediate investigation.

A hearing was scheduled for the following week in Memphis.  Stocksdale promised to make his case.

He didn’t.

According to The Sporting Life:

“He had no witnesses.  He had no affidavits.  He merely entered formal denial of the published statements.”

Stocksdale blamed reporters for misquoting him.

The Memphis club presented their case which included live testimony and dozens of statements refuting the charges, including one from Nick Carter, who Stocksdale had said would affirm his allegations.

Stocksdale was suspended indefinitely for, as The Sporting Life said, “Besmirching Baseball’s Fair Fame.”

Otis Stocksdale, the accuser

It was speculated that 36-year-old Stocksdale’s career was over, and that even if he did manage to play again that he would be blackballed from the Southern Association; however, when the suspension was lifted before the 1909 season after a petition drive that collected more than 1000 signatures in each Southern Association city, Stocksdale returned to the Sea Gulls and stayed in the league through the 1910 season.

Stocksdale finished his career as a player-manager with the Lynchburg Shoemakers in the Virginia League in 1912.

Babb remained as manager of Memphis until 1910 and continued managing in the minor leagues until 1913.

Charlie Babb, the accused

An interesting Postscript involving Atlanta Manager William Smith who vigorously defended Babb and insisted Stocksdale’s allegations were false.  After leading the Crackers to another league title in 1909 Smith was fired.  The deposed manager claimed the reason for his firing was his refusal to rein his team in the final weeks in order to increase gate receipts.  Smith’s complaint was dismissed by the league.